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Monday December 4, 2000

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Another career lost

Headline Photo

By Chris Martin

Arizona Daily Wildcat

What do you get when you implant a monkey's brain into a left-handed pitcher who has won 76 games during the last five years and does a great impression of a train whistle?

Denny Neagle.

Sound a little harsh? Maybe, but Neagle committed career suicide yesterday in one of the dumbest signings in Major League Baseball history.

Agreeing to a five-year, $51 million deal with a team like the Boston Red Sox would have made sense for Neagle. But the Colorado Rockies? Puh-lease.

Neagle - a fly-ball pitcher by nature - gave up an eye-popping 31 homers this year in stints with the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees.

What you must realize is that Cinergy Field and Yankee Stadium aren't exactly what you would call hitter-friendly.

But, playing in Coors Field - or should I say Coors Canaveral - Neagle could give up close to 50 bombs next season alone.

John Elway should pay for the construction of air traffic control towers along the foul poles in that place. No one park has put the fear of God into more pitchers than Coors, so why would Neagle come to Denver?

The only reason I can think of is MONEY!

Neagle won't be the first pitcher to almost ruin his career in the mile-high air of Denver.

A certain right-handed pitcher with a nasty curve ball and a 19-7 record took the money and ran to Coors following his 1997 season with the Houston Astros. In his two following seasons at the Canaveral, he had records of 13-17 and 8-13, and nearly destroyed his career. Oh, did I mention his ERA was 5.20 in '98 and 6.61 in '99, exponentially higher than the 2.57 ERA he posted in '97.

Luckily, Darryl Kile eventually found his way to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Is it any wonder that Kile was 20-7 this year and a legitimate Cy Young Award candidate in his first year away from Denver?

So maybe Neagle can join the 'Mile-high' club. No, not that club. Neagle must pay the $19.95 entrance fee to join the likes of Kile, Andy Ashby, Rolando Arrojo, Bruce Hurst, Dave Veres and numerous others who could have had good careers but ended up in the thin-air of the Rocky Mountain State.

It just doesn't make sense for a pitcher to sign with the Rockies. It could be a career move for someone like Juan Gonzalez, Sammy Sosa or Manny Ramirez. Y'know, home run hitters.

The air up there turns Coors into Red Bull and innocent fly balls into souvenirs.

Hell, even Jeffrey Hammonds had a good season playing in Denver? Jeffrey Hammonds!

It is kind of like Milton's Paradise Lost - Coors Canaveral is heaven to hitters and hell to the guys who take the mound.

So, welcome to hell Denny Neagle, it'll only cost you five years of your life.